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Golden Demon 2018

On Sunday, 13th May I made my annual pilgrimage to Coventry’s Ricoh Arena to take part in the Golden Demon Classic. I’ve been going to Golden Demon events since 2011, so I’ve got to know a lot of the other painters and studio staff over the years. Consequently the day generally passes in something of a blur as I spend the whole day talking to people (an unfamiliar experience for a hard core introvert like me) and this year was no exception! Nonetheless I thought it would be worth giving a flavour of the day from my own perspective.

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Trajann Valoris, Gold, Warhammer 40,000 Single Miniature

The doors were supposed to open at 10 am but I arrived at the venue at 9:30 and went straight up to the studio area on the top floor, sidestepping the long queue to get into the sales area. This year was the first time that competitors have been able to put miniatures into the contest on Saturday but the cabinets were fairly empty when I arrived so I guess not many people took advantage of that opportunity. I think it’s a great idea to try and extend the length of the event but sadly the reality for many of us is that 2 days away from home is tough to arrange!

Within an hour or so the cabinets had filled up and I tried to get a look at the entrants. This is always really difficult because of the number of people that are trying to do the same! I don’t think there’s a good solution to this, although it would be nice if the organisers were able to do something similar to the days when the contest was held at the NEC and images of the entries would be shown on large screens throughout the day.

This year the lighting in the cabinets had improved a bit (the halogens had been replaced with LEDs) but it is still quite harsh and could definitely be improved with some LED strips.

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Celestant on Dracoth, Silver, Age of Sigmar Single Miniature

As usual I had a fantastic time catching up with all my painter mates and met loads of other great people for the first time. As the years have rolled by, this is definitely the main reason for going to the event for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love picking up trophies as much as the next man, but it’s definitely more of a bonus and not the focus of the day.

At 12 pm the judging began and this year saw another innovation in the form of the highly commended entries. The organisers felt that because there can be a big difference in quality between an entry that scrapes in the finalist category and one that just misses out on a top 3 spot, it would be nice to recognise the latter with the extra award. I think it’s a great idea and there weren’t very many of these awards given out from what I saw so it’s definitely a big achievement if you get one!

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Nazgul of Dol Guldur, Bronze, Lord of the Rings and Hobbit

I’d taken no fewer than 4 entries along with me this year, and as usual I stuck to the single miniature categories. I was really pleased to take the gold in a super competitive 40k single category that was stacked with previous winners and slayer sword holders. This also meant that I successfully defended the gold I took in this category last year! In Age of Sigmar single I got the silver, runner up to Angelo di Chello’s slayer sword winning Horticulous Slimux and picked up a bronze in Lord of the Rings with my Nazgul.

The big shock of the day for me was also getting bronze in open with my Blood Angel lieutenant. This really wasn’t intended as a competition piece and I just brought it along as a last minute decision, putting it in open since I already had my 40k single entry. There was a slightly embarrassing moment when I was called up on stage to receive the award, only to find that the awards for open hadn’t made it to Coventry but I’m happy to say that it’s in the post!

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Blood Angels Lieutenant, Bronze, Open

Speaking of award ceremony cock ups, for the second year running there were no photos of the winning entries on the big screen as the awards were being collected. In my opinion this is pretty unforgivable and really needs to be sorted out. The upshot is that everyone went away from the event not really certain of which entries had won what and until the golden demon website is updated we still don’t know! How difficult can it be to put some pictures on a laptop and hook it up to a projector?

Overall, a fantastic day as usual. Of course there were plenty of other things to see and do as part of the wider Warhammer Fest that I won’t cover here. Despite the difficulty in seeing the entries my impression (confirmed by a few other people in the know) was that the overall standard wasn’t quite as mind blowing as last year, but some categories were definitely as competitive as ever. As usual I came away feeling re-invigorated to paint more miniatures and do better next year! Big thanks to the judges and everyone that had a hand in running the event, and congratulations to all the winners!

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Nazgul of Dol Guldur

A painting guide for this miniature is available here.

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I was really pleased to see Forgeworld bringing out the Nazgul miniatures after what seemed like endless dwarf, orc and lake town nonsense from the terrible Hobbit movies! I think that technically the Nazgul are from the Hobbit too but they’re also in the Lord of the Rings so that’s good enough for me!

It was a challenge to try and think of something interesting to do with this miniature since it’s very much just steel with a black cloak! I’ve added some subtle texture to the cloak and tried to make the non metallic metal a little interesting by highlighting it with cold green and including some reflections from a far off fire, which could be the fires of mount doom or just a camp fire made by some foolish hobbits! In reality the highlights are a bit greener than they appear in these pictures, but I really struggled to get an accurate colour balance on this miniature for some reason.

I was surprised to find that the Nazgul have been sculpted by hand, as I thought pretty much everything had been switched over to digital by now. I think CAD would have been a better choice with so much armour on the miniature – some of the surfaces were not as smooth or as precise as I would have liked and did have to spend some time with sandpaper and putty just correcting various areas. I’m pleased to say that the casting was pretty good though! The Nazgul are also larger than I expected – this guy towers over the other Lord of the Rings miniatures that I’ve got lying around. I’m not sure if this was intentional or just a bit of scale creep.

I’ll enter this into golden demon in a couple of weeks but without any great hope of winning anything, as I don’t think it’s the best choice of miniature for a competition piece. Still, after taking gold in this category in 2016 and 2017 I don’t think I can complain too much!

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Arwen

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I painted Arwen over the course of a week as a fairly last minute third entry for Golden Demon 2017. I couldn’t go without trying to defend my LotR/Hobbit title from last year!

I had wanted to paint Thranduil, King of Mirkwood but sadly received a poor copy (curse you, finecast!) so had to pull Arwen (in metal) off the subs bench.

Not much to say about this one really. I do enjoy the simplicity of the Lord of the Rings miniatures and they always present a challenge due to their diminutive stature.

I’m quite happy with the freehands that I pulled off in a very small space. I’ve added a bit of texturing to the purple robe and the ochre streamer things. I wanted to try and capture the lustrous quality that Arwen has in the movies, so I elected to go with a very pale base coat for the face (almost white) and then added shading and colour gradually. I’m reasonably happy with the end result but it’s not an approach I’d normally use!

Arwen comes in a dual pack, so I will have to paint the mounted version at some point!

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Preparations for Golden Demon 2017

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Up until a couple of weeks ago I wasn’t sure if I’d attend Warhammer Fest. Although I always enjoy chatting to my fellow painters and the studio guys that I know, I find I no longer have the hunger that I used to for winning painting awards. After factoring in the cost of attending, I was leaning towards not going.

It has now transpired that I have another good reason for going (which I won’t go into here), so last week I bought my ticket. And of course if I am going then I may as well enter golden demon! Happily I still had my recent Blood Angels librarian and High Elf sea lord sitting around, so I already had one more entry than I managed to take last year (when I was only able to get Legolas painted in time).

Since these pieces now needed to be competition standard, I spent some more time working on the base for the sea lord. Online reaction to this piece has generally been very good, but I got some great feedback from a handful of my facebook friends regarding the poor standard of modelling on the rocks.

I will freely admit that I’ve never particularly enjoyed basing. I really appreciate the amazing work that so many people in the community put out in this area, but I’ve never felt that this is where my talents lie. I love super clean, precise painting and this doesn’t really sit well with the approaches needed to create believable looking scenes. But I wanted to make the piece as good as it could be, so I took the feedback on board and had a go at improving the cliff face with the aid of some milliput and reference pictures on google. I’m sure it’s still not great, but I hope it’s better than it was.

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Sea Lord before modifications

 

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And after!

 

I was happy with the librarian as is, so my thoughts turned to whether or not I could get a third entry done in time. It seemed only right that I should attempt to defend my title as Lord of the Rings/Hobbit champion from last year, so I needed to get my hands on a simple miniature that I could paint fairly quickly. After perusing the GW website for a while I settled on Thranduil, King of Mirkwood.

Now at this point, particularly observant readers may be thinking that the purple robed lady in the first picture is a funny looking Thranduil. And yes, I have to report that unfortunately my plan to paint this lovely looking miniature was undone by the abomination that is finecast. It has been a good long while since I bought any resin from GW and having heard reports that it has improved recently I foolishly thought I’d give it another go. Sadly I received the all too familiar mix of bubbles, warped parts and chunks of resin obscuring details.

Happily I had hedged against this possibility and also ordered Arwen in good old solid dependable metal, so she will be my final entry. More pictures of Arwen coming soon!

So there we have it – three entries ready for golden demon next Sunday. I honestly have no idea how I’ll get on in the competition. The standard seems to be driven ever higher each year and I’ve already seen pictures of jaw dropping work from the likes of David Soper and Michal Pisarski that make me think I’m in for a serious schooling! But regardless, I’m sure I’ll have a great time meeting up with everyone. Looking forward to it!

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Scale and Perfectionism

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I haven’t posted for a few weeks simply because I haven’t made as much progress with current projects as I’d hoped. The Varanguard has reached a fully assembled state… and stalled. Partly this is because I fell into my old trap and didn’t plan as thoroughly as I should have done. Consequently I’m underwhelmed with the effect of the lighting coming from the lava (in my head it just looked so much cooler!) and one or two other things. But I’ve realised that really the problem is more to do with scale.

The Varanguard is big. It’s difficult to get a true sense of it from pictures but I placed it next to a pre Age of Sigmar cavalry model (a High Elf Dragon Prince) and the difference is startling. The overall surface area that needs painting is vast in comparison, and of course this means that it takes far longer to complete the project. For this miniature there are also a great deal of details which add to the time needed.

There was a time in the not so distant past when I would have been prepared to plough 100 hours into a single model, but these days I find my willingness to commit to projects of this nature greatly reduced. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I’m no longer chasing competition glory but just painting for the fun of it. Beyond a certain point I tend to get bored with a miniature and want to move on to the next thing. With the motivation of competition I was able to push through this and on to completion but if I’m painting for fun and it’s starting to become not fun then what is the point?

One possible solution to this conundrum would be to back off on the quality a bit to reduce the painting time. But I know that when I do this I’m inevitably unsatisfied with what I’ve produced. So this is a non-starter (although the Varanguard will probably end up getting this treatment just so I can get it off my desk). The only other possibility I can see is to work at a smaller scale so that I can indulge my perfectionism while keeping the total project time down to a manageable level.

I had a lot fun last year painting my own 15 mm sculpts, and this is something I’d like to do more of in the future. On those minis I could really go to town, painting everything in non metallic metal and even getting in some bits of freehand while still keeping the total time per mini to 10-20 hours. However, I have to concede that such diminutive miniatures just don’t have the impact of larger figures. I’d also like to be able to paint something without having to sculpt it and get it printed first!

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been painting up a Tauriel from the Hobbit line, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this sits right in my sweet spot for scale. It’s a lovely sculpt, and the face in particular is better than I had thought from the box art (although I still need to tidy it up a little). The project is nearing completion and I’m not sick of looking at it yet despite pushing myself to the limit of my ability.

So I think that’s the answer for me – in the future I’ll be focussing again on single miniatures on foot when it comes to painting. It’s just a bit of a shame that there are so few LotR/Hobbit characters available in plastic because I really don’t like dealing with all the imperfections that come with resin and metal! I think I’ll be ok going up in scale to the smaller Warhammer miniatures, but I need to test that. This will open up a much larger range of possibilities but I worry a little about the trend towards huge character models that GW has been exhibiting recently. Don’t get me wrong: they’re fantastic miniatures, absolutely brilliant sculpts. They just don’t fit into my hobby at the moment.

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Legolas Greenleaf

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I’m very fond of GW’s Lord of the Rings range. The films made a big impression on me and the sculpts (I think they’re mostly the work of the Perry twins) really capture the mood and the aesthetic. Result: a very inspired and motivated painter!

I’m much less keen on the Hobbit however. I read the book as a kid and didn’t particularly like it, and predictably the films weren’t a patch on the LotR trilogy. So I was less enthusiastic about the minis to begin with (even though there are still some lovely sculpts), and it wasn’t helped by them coinciding with the finecast era! Fortunately there are a few plastics available, so when I was looking for something to paint up as a result of a late decision to go to Warhammer Fest I decided to give Legolas a go.

I’ll hold my hands up here and say that I was so keen to get painting that I didn’t really think much about colours. I had a vague idea that I wanted his robe to be dark red and fancied doing the armour in gold, but beyond that nothing was planned. This is a bad habit of mine that I’m trying to correct with future projects.

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When painting LotR/Hobbit minis for competition the challenge is to do something to make yours stand out. Compared to the Warhammer ranges the minis are very small and have a lovely simplicity about them. I’ve had good results in the past with subtle little freehands and texturing and I decided to employ both here. (In case you’re wondering, the freehand on this piece are the little patterns I painted on the daggers – I told you they were subtle.)

I spent some time with a couple of reference pictures of Orlando Bloom trying to place the highlights and shades to capture the likeness. I don’t think I was wholly successful in this – but the face really is tiny so I was probably being a bit ambitious.

I went for NMM on this piece as I find metallics don’t have much impact when the details are so small.

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One of the things I like about this scale is that the minis are small enough that I can indulge the inner perfectionist and make every blend as smooth as possible without it resulting in hundreds of hours of work. I think Legolas ended up being as close to flawless as anything I’ve achieved so far, and I was very pleased to take gold at Golden Demon.

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